Padres Keep Building and Borrowing, Add Craig Kimbrel

Right at the deadline, A.J. Preller managed to squeeze in one more major transaction before the dawn of the regular season. We can say that, now, the Padres’ 2014-2015 offseason is complete; we can say that, now, the Padres’ 2014-2015 offseason also includes Craig Kimbrel. He will, presumably, be available to the team for Opening Day. It’s a little different from the usual roster additions made around this time.

The whole of the deal:

Padres get

  • Craig Kimbrel
  • Melvin Upton

Braves get

For the Braves, it’s a totally understandable and justifiable move — not only do they get to shed the rest of the Upton contract, but Kimbrel meant relatively little to them as an elite-level closer on a basement-level team. The cost savings here are significant, and they can shortly be put toward assets that might be of greater help in the window in which the Braves plan to be good again. Also, Wisler! Wisler could be of help in said window.

For the Padres, it fits with a lot of the rest of the offseason. Kimbrel isn’t exactly a one-year player, since he could be under contract through 2018, but the team’s paying a high price again, borrowing from future talent and future flexibility to make the 2015 roster stronger. That goal has been met — without question, the Padres have taken another step forward. Now we all just get to find out whether this collection of talent can come together and push for something beyond a 162nd game.

Some have given credit to the respective general managers for pulling off this deal without any extra cash changing hands. It’s true that the only things being moved here are players and contracts, but really, cash is being exchanged, just in the form of some human people. Carlos Quentin is basically a cash swap. Melvin Upton is basically a cash swap. Here’s a simple table of salary commitments, with the parentheses showing buyouts of team options.

Player 2015 2016 2017 2018
Kimbrel 9.0 11.0 13.0 13.0 (1.0)
Upton 14.5 15.5 16.5
Quentin 8.0
Maybin 7.0 8.0 9.0 (1.0)

This is a complicated trade, with many parts, but there’s a lot you can do to simplify. Word is, the Braves are just going to DFA Quentin, so that’s $8 million. Upton and Maybin are similar players and similar disappointments, and while they obviously have different career profiles, they project about the same as backup center fielders. Maybin could’ve had a place on the Padres. Now Upton will, and that shouldn’t change much. Paroubeck? Toolsy, and very young, but, fringe prospect. The 41st pick is just a 41st pick. It’s worth, I don’t know, some millions. Not many of them.

The Braves are shedding just over $80 million in guaranteed future salary. The Padres, meanwhile, are shedding about $24 million in guaranteed future salary, meaning, in the end, the Braves save about $56 million, and the Padres add that much. Kimbrel has both potential performance-based bonuses and a club option, but we’ll stick with the guarantee for now. Here’s the simplification of this deal: the Padres are trading one of their top prospects, and a couple other minor things, for Craig Kimbrel on a three-year contract worth about $56 million. That doesn’t capture everything, but it gets to the heart of this.

And, you know, Kimbrel’s about as good as a reliever gets. Been that way for years. He’s right there with Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen, and he’s worth a lot of money. But you can see how this is a steep investment. Consider that David Robertson isn’t that much worse than Kimbrel is. The White Sox signed him for four years and $46 million, and though they also surrendered a draft pick, that pick is actually even lower than the 41st pick the Padres are dealing. For more money and fewer years of Kimbrel, the Padres are also giving up Wisler and a throw-in. It’s…let’s say “bold”. I think that conveys all the right impressions.

There’s an additional variable here. Kimbrel would make any team better. He definitely makes the Padres better, and as you know, the Padres are around that part of the win curve where every additional win makes an extraordinary difference. They’ve built up, incredibly, to look pretty strong for 2015, and now they have a closer who won’t even give a weak team defense many opportunities to mess up. But, just the other day, I wrote up the top half of the relief-pitcher Positional Power Rankings. The Padres ranked tied for second. They already had a really good bullpen. Today, the Padres demoted both Brandon Maurer and Kevin Quackenbush, because their relief corps is that good and that deep. This wasn’t a trade that addressed a weakness, so, Kimbrel doesn’t make the same difference to San Diego as he might’ve somewhere else.

I guess we shouldn’t belabor that, though. Think of this as insurance against ordinary bullpen unpredictability. And while the obvious thing to do is to improve your weaknesses, there’s nothing inherently wrong with improving your strengths. The Padres’ bullpen, now, is even better. It’s even deeper, to protect against injury and under-performance. Not only do the Padres now have the best projected bullpen in baseball — it’s the best by a relatively wide margin, better even than the Royals’ bullpen. The Padres intend to be awful protective of any late leads.

There’s always risk. There’s risk with everybody, but with relievers, you just don’t know. Kimbrel throws hard, and he throws a lot of breaking balls. Just for fun, here are the top 10 relievers under 30 from 2011, by WAR:

  1. Craig Kimbrel
  2. Sean Marshall
  3. David Robertson
  4. Sergio Romo
  5. John Axford
  6. Joel Hanrahan
  7. Greg Holland
  8. Tyler Clippard
  9. Glen Perkins
  10. Jason Motte

Kimbrel’s still great, and Robertson’s still great, and Holland’s still great, and Clippard’s still great, and Perkins is still great. Not bad! Five out of 10. The other five aren’t great. Kimbrel isn’t showing signs of imminent decline. He’s as good a reliever bet as any. Just, even the safest reliever bets aren’t exactly safe bets. They’re high-risk, a lot like the 2015 San Diego Padres.

One last thing to note: it’ll be interesting to see how the Padres decide to use their position players. There’s an opportunity, now, for Wil Myers to split time with Melvin Upton in center, and to also split time with Yonder Alonso at first. That would put Myers in the extremely uncommon position of playing both first base and center field regularly — Nick Swisher is one of the only comps. But, maybe that won’t happen. And even if it does, it’s not like Myers is your ordinary center fielder. He’s a center fielder out of necessity, just as Swisher was before. Think of this as neat trivia.

The Atlanta end here is easy. They’re not going to be good real soon, so they might as well move their expensive closer, since he’s probably not going to appreciate in value. It’s really easy to focus on how including Upton brought down Kimbrel’s price tag, but that’s not an objective way to look at this — you could just as easily say that including Kimbrel brought up Upton’s price tag. If they were to be moved separately, Kimbrel might’ve brought back more, but then Upton would’ve required that the Braves include either money or talent. The end result would’ve been a very similar package. Both a burden and a blessing have been shed, at the same time, and beyond greater financial flexibility, the Braves get to add to their stable of prospects.

Kiley ranked Wisler at No. 41 in all of baseball. He was ranked by Baseball America at No. 34. Baseball Prospectus, No. 53. He’s 22 years old, and, here’s the Kiley excerpt:

To pitch at the Padres pre-draft workout in San Diego in 2011, Wisler flew to the west coast from Ohio and pitched the day after he threw in a high school playoff game, hitting 91 mph at PETCO Park. He’s shown the intangibles from day one, but came to camp in 2013 looking like a completely different pitcher. Wisler now works 91-94, touching 95 mph with sink and commands the pitch to both sides of the plate. His two-plane slider is plus, his changeup is above average at times and he also works in a fringy curveball. Scouts rave about his makeup and strike throwing abilities, though his command isn’t quite big league ready, as he ran into trouble in the hitter-friendly PCL leaving the ball up the zone. Some scouts think his build is too slight and that he won’t be able to hold up for 200 innings, with a couple suggesting he may end up as a late-inning reliever. The consensus is that he should be able to handle 180 innings as a third or fourth starter and he’ll get a big league look in 2015, though the Padres new starting pitching depth may delay that until late in the season.

Wisler is no automatic prospect — no prospect ought to be considered automatic — and he did just post a Triple-A ERA a hair north of 5. But the upside is big, and the talent is big, and this is just another case of the Braves prioritizing a highly-talented young pitching prospect. It’s a risky franchise-building strategy, because position players are considered to be safer, but the Braves have collected such an assortment now that it would be extremely unfortunate for everyone to bust. It’s apparent that, a few years from now, the Braves are really going to be able to pitch. We’ll see about the rest, but, that’s where the money might come in.

Paroubeck? He’s a long-term project. So, presumably, will be the No. 41 draft pick. Those are both minor assets, although they’re not nothing assets. Wisler, obviously, is the prize. In second place: all the new financial freedom. It doesn’t help to spend that money on guys like Nick Markakis, but that’ll only really be a problem if it develops into a pattern.

The Braves are embracing their lousy projections, and they’ve made a move that makes sense. The Padres are putting even more pressure on the short-term, depleting future resources for the sake of making 2015 a success. If nothing else, 2015 for San Diego will be of extremely high interest, and the team projects to be similar to the Pirates and Cubs. Even if they aren’t quite as good as the Dodgers, the Padres are positioned to stay alive in wild-card contention, and that’s most certainly something. And if it all comes apart? If it turns out the pieces don’t fit together? Then it’ll be on A.J. Preller to swap shorter-term value for longer-term value. All he’s proven so far is he can do the opposite, but then, I’m sure he’d like to keep it that way.

We hoped you liked reading Padres Keep Building and Borrowing, Add Craig Kimbrel by Jeff Sullivan!

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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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Bill
Guest
Bill

The end result of using Kimbrel to raise Melvin Jr.’s value vs the opposite is only equal if the dollar savings are used to improve the team elsewhere – at least if you are looking at it from a long term baseball (not profits) perspective.

At least as likely: Braves ownership keeping costs low – pocketing the extra money – and waiting for 2017 season in lily-white suburbia.

Yay, dogs!
Guest
Yay, dogs!

Agreed. Everyone is acting like the Braves had to get ride of Melvin and that this was the price. If they’re not going to be upgrading the team in the next few years, might as well eat that contract to get more for Kimbrel.

fast at last
Guest
fast at last

They still are eating a lot of that contract, just by way of taking on Maybin and Quentin. Basically the Braves traded Kimbrel for Wisler, Paroubeck, the 41st pick AND having 16.5m extra in payroll for ’17 which is when they should be ready to compete at least for the wildcard again. They only shed 6m in payroll from ’15/’16 combined when you consider Maybin and Quentin’s salaries. I think it’s a really clever move from John Hart.

tz
Guest
tz

At least now they can afford the all-important contract for Marietta’s own Nick Markakis.

Though I think Maybin’s a great roll of the dice, on the chance he actually stays healthy for a stretch. Hopefully Fredi will give him a long look instead of rolling out whatever craptastic combo of outfielders they might juggle.

EB
Guest

What more could they get from the Padres? They literally saved 22 million on Upton alone (his 46 million minus the remaining salaries for Quentin/Maybin) plus got a real prospect and sandwich pick … plus they save about 10 million a year on Kimbrell and don’t face any injury risk should he go down.

The Braves held out for top dollar and they got it. I don’t think this is a disaster for the Padres as they essentially are paying 20 million a year for him if you include some value in Wisler being a possible third or fourth starter. It’s just not the most efficient way to deploy resources.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC

Atlanta suburbs are not lily white. Your understanding of the demographics there are wildly out of date.

tz
Guest
tz

Totally true. Though after the brouhaha that the Hawks owner started about the demographics of their fan base, it will be hard to overcome that stereotype nationally.

(Son at Georgia Tech, daughter at Kennesaw State, both in diverse areas – new stadium will be right about halfway in between)

kennesaw
Guest
kennesaw

it’s a hell of a lot whiter than where they’re at now

Rallyk
Member
Rallyk

It’s a hell of lot more diverse than where they’re at now.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth

No, it’s not. It’s 65% white. Atlanta’s only 55% black.

(People from Spain might be eligible to check “Hispanic” on the Census, but they’re still white).

a eskpert
Guest
a eskpert

Few Hispanics are, though.

Matthew Tobin
Member

They also have the highest income inequality in America. Suburban Atlanta certainly isn’t all “Housewives of Atlanta”, but let’s not pretend the demographic the Braves are targeting aren’t well off white people. I feel like one of the problems with baseball is this issue. Baseball games are expensive to go to,expensive to watch on TV, and expensive to play. If I want to the watch the Red Sox, it is $50 a month. The RSN requires $60 a month. The cheapest wooden bat costs $30 and will break within a day or two. Baseball’s has a class problem too.

Ullu Ka Patta
Guest
Ullu Ka Patta

And? Assume all you said is true, MLB is neither a charity nor is watching baseball a human right. It is a business, and it will market itself in the way it feels will make it most economically viable. If it’s wrong, it will fail. And that’s not even getting into the fuzzy logic of equating ‘makes a marginally expensive product’ with ‘has a class problem’.

Matthew Tobin
Member

I don’t get it. The Padres are essentially paying $100M for Kimbrel. Between Kimbrel and Upton, there is $93M through 2018. Maybin was owed $25M, but I bet a team would have paid most that given his pedigree,position, and potential. I have to imagine Quentin will find a nice home with an AL team DHing. I like them both, but I feel the value of Wisler cancels out these contracts. So in essence, the Padres paid $100M for a closer.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth

I live in Druid Hills, and it’s really, really fucking white. So is Decatur.

They don’t even have MARTA in Cobb County, because they don’t want black people OTP.

miguel cabrera
Guest
miguel cabrera

I have a friend who is white that works at ATL airport which is 10-15 minutes or so SE of downtown.

Out of 100 of her co-workers, only 3 reside within 1 hour of work and 2 of those are black. Atlanta is 80% black.

The pilots wives that meet them at the airport all have mandated security.

The wealthy and middle class all live in suburbs like Newnan, Roswell, and Marietta for a reason. They are afraid of young blacks and don’t want to deal with the problems they bring.

The money resides in suburbia, it is safer, and baseballs demographic is mostly white: that is why the team moved there. Deal with it.

Llama Glama
Member
Llama Glama

I really don’t understand why people think that the Braves are moving to this super white suburb – they’re not. Yes, it’s much whiter than Atlanta, but the black population in Cobb County is still much above the national average. Let’s compare the demographics of the two:

Cobb County
-54.8% White, non-Hispanic (65.5% white if including the white Hispanic population)
-26.7% Black
-4.9% Asian
-5.2% Hispanic
-2% Two or more races

City of Atlanta
-36.3% White, non-Hispanic (38.4% white if including the white Hispanic population)
-54% Black
-3.1% Asian
-5.2% Hispanic
-2% Two or more races

As we can see, Cobb County is no doubt more white than Atlanta, but I would hardly call the county “lily white”. The whole idea that the suburbs are super white is long outdated. Take a look a Gwinnett County – easily the most diverse county in Georgia (and more diverse than the City of Atlanta), with no one race making up 50% of the population (assuming you separate the non-Hispanic white population from the Hispanic white population). In reality, the Atlanta suburbs are being more and more populated by minorities, while the city of Atlanta is becoming increasingly white.

I hate that the Braves are moving out of Atlanta to the suburbs – I hate suburban ballparks and think a move was unnecessary. And I don’t doubt at all that racism still exists and that people still try to avoid certain races. That said, the Braves didn’t move to flea a black populated area, they moved because of economic reasons – they were offered sweetheart deal in a wealthy area and the Braves took it. Most sports franchises and businesses would have done the same. I dislike what happened, but I don’t think something more sinister was at play here.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth

They’re moving OTP to a place that refuses to get a MARTA line because they don’t want black people to be able to get across the Lester Maddox bridge.

Llama Glama
Member
Llama Glama

I don’t deny that there are racist sentiments in Cobb County, especially in their local politics and when it comes to the reasons for refusing public transportation, but at the same time Cobb County is increasingly becoming less white. Between then 2000 and 2010 census, the black population percentage grew from 18.8% to 26.8%, a 8% increase, while the white population percentage has dropped. Atlanta is having the opposite happen. The percent of Atlanta’s that is black has dropped from 61.5% in 2000 to 54% in 2010, and it’s not only because other races (whites) are starting to move to Atlanta more, but also because the black population is actually starting to leave Atlanta (the population dropped by 30,000 between the last two census’).

Anyway, my point is the the view that suburbs are extremely white and that minorities don’t dare to live there is long outdated. By the next census, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of Atlanta’s suburbs (mainly Gwinnett) to be less white that Atlanta itself. I don’t doubt that suburbs still try to attempt to keep minorities out as their local government’s tend to still be white and conservative even if the suburbs themselves are not.

Paul Lentz
Guest
Paul Lentz

Lester…..if no black people had cars, then your ‘they don’t want MARTA because they don’t want black people to come’ post, would have some merit.

However, what ‘they’ don’t want…is easy access to an area by peóple (regardless of race) who DON’T HAVE MONEY. I’m not defending that mentality…just explaining that there is A DIFFERENCE between being ‘a racist’ AND ‘being comfortable around those you can relate to (people with money)’.

Do you really think that black folks with money…want poor blacks from the ghetto ‘hanging around’ their neighborhoods? A number of well to do blacks now..live in GATED COMMUNITIES as well these days.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth

Ahhh, the old “It’s not that we don’t want those people, it’s that we don’t want those people.”

I have friends who grew up in Marietta. They don’t pretend that it’s about anything other than racism. You don’t have to, either.

realist
Guest
realist

It isn’t possible to be lily white anywhere in the Atlanta area..but clearly the new ballpark was built for the typical baseball demographic needed. Ever wonder why an Olympic ballpark that isn’t quite 20 years old is no longer sufficient? I was there a couple years ago and it seemed like a nice facility. The actions of the Atlanta Hawks owner speak volumes as to the fan $upport needed in this day and age….this trend will continue.

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

The area they are building in really shouldn’t be called suburban. The Cumberland/Vinings area is at least as dense as a bunch of portions of the city of Atlanta and Cobb County is more dense than Fulton County. It is probably more dense than the area immediately around Turner Field in all reality also and it isn’t like MARTA is convenient to Turner.

Maybe this will be the spark that gets MARTA into Cobb too. If you had a stop at Cumberland Mall it would easily be a better situation all around than Turner Field.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth

Well, at least the reason it sucks taking the Marta to Turner is that Atlanta can’t plan infrastructure, rather than racism.

(Looking on the bright side, haha!)

If this means that we can finally get a MARTA out to Cobb, though, I’m all for it.

Cameron
Guest
Cameron

There is an elementary school a mile down the road from the new stadium – http://www.greatschools.org/georgia/smyrna/501-Argyle-Elementary-School/details/#Students

It’s student body is 7% white. If the Braves are trying to escape for “lily-white” suburbia, they did a pretty poor job of picking the spot. There are plenty of reasons to deride the new stadium like taxpayer funding, lack of public transportation (which was a problem at the old location as well) without playing the race card.

That Guy
Guest
That Guy

I love how we get to now have conversations where white and white-ness are a bad thing.

Ben WMD
Guest
Ben WMD

Seriously, when is the white man going to finally catch a break?

Andy
Guest
Andy

Lily-white suburbia??? Making up wild generalizations or is that comment out of just plain ignorance? Here are the demographics of what you are calling the “lily-white suburb” of Cobb County: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/13/13067.html

As you can see, Cobb County has roughly the same demographics as the state of Georgia as a whole. But I forgot, its more fun to infer racism is the biggest factor in the Braves move out of Atlanta proper.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC

If anyone ever offers me a free $400 million, I’ll make sure that Internet sleuths can’t uncover my secret racist motivations. I think that’s the least you can do.

Ullu ka Patta
Guest
Ullu ka Patta

So basically ‘I’m right and any information to the contrary is obviously falsified’.

It must be comfortable in that universe.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC

I’m being sarcastic. The only information that has been provided has debunked the notion of Atlanta’s suburbs (and Cobb Co. particularly) as being “lily white.” Unless you count personal anecdotes as “information” but I don’t.

They’re owned by a publicly traded corporation. The Braves moved for money. Lots and lots of money. Trash that all you want. The added narrative that they’re going to an area with a starkly different racial makeup is false. The idea that the reason they are moving is because they simply want white fans is also false (and also, have you been to Turner Field? Almost all the fans there are white. Where exactly could they put the stadium and not have a vast majority of white fans?)

Ullu Ka Patta
Guest
Ullu Ka Patta

Couldn’t agree more. Whatever the makeup of their new location, the idea that a company should be shamed for relocating to a financially more lucrative location, because it offends your (correct or not) notions of diversity, is so absurd it could almost come out of the mouth of one of Ayn Rand’s caricatures.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth

Georgia as a whole is also lily-white.

Atlanta ITP is the only place with a large concentration of black people.

John Lewis would never win a senatorial election in GA, and he wouldn’t win a Congressional one in Cobb County.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC

Georgia’s black population outside of the Atlanta metro area is 28 percent (of 4.4 million people). The Atlanta metro area is 32 percent (5.3 million people). Both of these are way over the national average.

Georgia is not far away from possibly electing an actual Democrat in the U.S. Senate. Maybe not John Lewis, but John Lewis likely couldn’t win a Senatorial election in any state.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth

Hah, that’s what all my friends who worked for Nunn said. We didn’t even get a runoff! They have a better shot during the presidential election, though, when more people vote.

Massachusetts would definitely elect Lewis, because he’s an American hero. I think NY, VT and RI would, too.

You’ve got a good point about the relative diversity of GA, though. It’s in the SC-LA corridor of states that are all 25-30% black (and were therefore wayyyy more aggressively segregationist than the rest of the South).